Insights into Editorial: Facing the climate emergency
On May 1, the British parliament became the world’s first to declare a climate emergency: something that’s considered a largely symbolic move.
The International Monetary Fund estimates in a recent working paper that fossil fuel subsidies were $4.7 trillion in 2015 and estimated to be $5.2 trillion in 2017.
It goes on to say that efficient fossil fuel pricing would have reduced global carbon emissions by 28%.
The atmosphere now has concentrations of over 415 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide, compared to 280 ppm in pre-industrial times.
The declaration came after 11 days of street protests in London by environmental campaign group Extinction Rebellion.
The group aims to bring global greenhouse gas emissions down to zero by 2025, and to end biodiversity loss–which the British government aims to achieve by 2050.
About Rapid Climate Change:
A recent paper in the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A. shows that global warming during the past half century has contributed to a differential change in income across countries.
More recently, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services has reported that, worldwide, the abundance of species has reduced by at least one-fifth, about a million species are under threat of extinction in the next few decades and 85% of wetlands have been lost.
The fossil fuel industry has also funded politicians, so their words and laws are already bought.
The documentary film Merchants of Doubt describes how a handful of scientists have obscured the truth on global warming so that business profits can continue to flow.
Contrast of global warming effect in income of different countries:
- The observed contrast is that already wealthy countries have become wealthier and developing countries have been made poorer in relative terms during this time.
- The Arctic is melting rapidly and the tenor of the recent discussions among Arctic countries suggests that even as increasing glacier melt is responsible for opening up shipping in the area, superpowers are angling to access wealth from the oil, gas, uranium and precious metals in the region.
- India’s GDP growth penalty between 1961 and 2010 is in the order of 31% for the period, whereas Norway gained about 34% on a per capita basis.
- Policies and commitments make it clear that most governments and businesses are not interested in dealing with the climate and ecological crises.
- They will certainly not give these the central attention they deserve in these times of an emergency, they barely even acknowledge them.
- The manifestos of the political parties contesting the Indian general election barely took note of questions relating to climate and environment.
- Instead, it is “business as usual” or “life as usual” in the familiar news cycles of bickering and politics.
Mozambique Case study:
- Mozambique recently had two successive intense cyclones, Idai and Kenneth, with widespread devastation.
- In an article, a local activist, describes how big oil and energy companies have been eager to tap into Mozambique’s liquid natural gas, with large banks from many countries involved in the financing.
- In 2013, bank loans for $2 billion were guaranteed by the Mozambican government. When the government defaulted on its loans and the currency plummeted, it left behind a trail of woes.
- The story in Mozambique is of how “corrupt local elites collude with plundering foreign elites” and enrich themselves and their partners, while the people are left to bear the burden of debt.
Poor Laws in any country makes the Poorest of the poor to suffer most:
The various kinds of corruption may not be new, various versions of this are played out in other countries. Governments corporate cronies and plundering elites, of course, need not be foreign.
Environmental laws can be broken by old boys’ networks with impunity as penalties are cancelled by a party in control.
It is the poorest and those without access to power who become victims of the fallout from these situations.
Another recent example is the draft Indian Forest Act of 2019, which enhances the political and police power of the forest department and curtails the rights of millions of forest dwellers.
New form of Protest to bring Attitudinal Change: Die-ins Protests now in Europe and Asia:
Luckily, what we are witnessing is a large-scale movement for “planet emergency”, climate and ecology.
Greta Thunberg has been leading this among school-going children, and Extinction Rebellion has been organising “die-ins” (form of protest in which participants simulate being dead) in many parts of Europe and now in Asia.
Their non-violent civil disobedience is just what is needed and it is indeed inspiring to see children and grandparents protest together.
People’s movements, whether made up of students or adults, cannot be ignored for long and governments will have to pay attention.
On any day, none of these stunning scientific findings made banner headlines.
The Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister did not hold an emergency meeting to discuss the loss of economic output because of climate change or the effects from loss of biodiversity in India.
The only solutions that governments and business are looking for are those that enable them to carry on as before.
But the planet is well past that point where small fixes can help take us on a long path to zero carbon earth.
We are now at a stage where we need major overhaul of our lifestyles and patterns of consumption.
The U.K. Parliament became the first recently to declare a climate emergency.
It remains to be seen if appropriate actions will follow this declaration.
When a 16-year-old speaks (in Europe protest) with far greater clarity and conviction than the thousands of dithering policy wonks who have been debating for over three decades, we know the politics of the climate crisis must undergo a radical transformation.